Language Education in the United States

In most school systems, foreign language is taken in high school, with many schools requiring one to three years of foreign language in order to graduate. In some school systems, foreign language is also taught during middle school, and recently, many elementary schools have begun teaching foreign languages as well. However, foreign language immersion programs are growing in popularity, making it possible for elementary school children to begin serious development of a second language.

In late 2009 the Center for Applied Linguistics completed an extensive survey documenting foreign language study in the United States. The most popular language is Spanish, due to the large number of recent Spanish-speaking immigrants to the United States (see Spanish in the United States). According to this survey, in 2008 88% of language programs in elementary schools taught Spanish, compared to 93% in secondary schools. Other languages taught in U.S. high schools in 2008, in descending order of frequency, were French, German, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Italian, and Japanese. During the Cold War, the United States government pushed for Russian education, and some schools still maintain their Russian programs. Other languages recently gaining popularity include Arabic.